• The Wire review of ’80s Underground Cassette Culture Vol.1′ LP
  • 80s Underground Cassette Culture
    Vol 1
    Various
    Contort Yourself DL/LP
    The advantages of the format responsible
    for the recent upsurge in cassette tape
    usage were similarly behind the format’s
    1980s heyday. The freedom to reproduce,
    practical ease of recording and smaller
    postal package size were big wins for
    fringe artists in particular, and thus an
    international underground of tape-released
    music surfaced. This compilation by
    Glaswegian label Contort Yourself joins the
    dots between several obscure artists from
    the era in suitably erratic fashion, filling four
    sides of vinyl with murky proto-noise, prototechno,
    and primitive industrial sounds
    largely from across Europe.
    Besides happily recording in lo-fi, the
    common denominator between these artists
    is a rejection of 80s excess and a pretty
    uniformly angry mood. This had them all
    coercing young electronic gear into odd new
    timbres, such as Dutch new wave trio Ende
    Shneafliet, blaring a maddeningly wobbly
    high-pitched synth over proto-electro
    beats on a track dating back to a 1981 tape
    release. The primal drum machine backing
    up “Assassins” by Sydney duo East End
    Butchers is similarly brutal and ugly – a
    bastardised nightmare compared to the
    Moroder and Prince hits of the time made
    with similar gear.
    It’s tough to trace the direct impact
    and influence of these obscure tracks, but
    multiple genres get foreshadowed across the
    collection. “The Other Stranger” by Dutch
    outfit Doxa Sinistra sounds like a bouncy
    mid-tempo Aphex Twin. Another Dutch group
    – a duo called Muziekkamer – also provide
    an album highlight of coarse drum machine
    rhythms not a million miles from the bruising
    modern productions of Perc, despite dating
    back to the mid-80s.
    80s Underground Cassette Culture
    Volume 1 could function as a miniature Nurse
    With Wound list for the the tape underground
    of its chosen era, but it also documents an
    alternative history of experimental music,
    uninterested in the dominant Anglo-American
    continuum. Most interesting is the hitherto
    under-documented inventiveness of the
    Belgian, Dutch and Spanish undergrounds
    of the time, all represented on this excellent
    compilation.
    Tristan Bath